Ninuk Widyantoro was one of 11 people who founded the YKP Women’s Health Foundation in Indonesia in 2001. The founders established the organization to pursue legal protections for women’s reproductive rights and health, especially safe abortion, and to empower their communities to stand up for their rights. Prior to her involvement with YKP, Ninuk had been involved in working for women’s health and rights for nearly 30 years, and since 1980 she has focused especially on adolescent health. Initially she worked at Planned Parenthood Indonesia for 13 years. A trained psychologist, Ninuk worked at Planned Parenthood as a family planning counselor and supported women in making decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, including abortion. Through this work, she became very interested in working with adolescents and ensuring that they were empowered and able to access non-judgmental health care.
After she left Planned Parenthood Indonesia, Ninuk worked independently and focused on training and supporting others to become counselors. She has done this work in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ghana, South Africa, and other places as well. Among her trainees are many college students who were trained as volunteer peer educators who would talk to young people both in school and out of school about sexual and reproductive health.
Along the way, it became very clear that it was necessary to have a law in Indonesia that would protect women and make it possible for women to access abortion services. Eleven people–activists, psychologists, and ob-gyns–came together to create the YKP Womens’ Health Foundation. They decided to only focus on two things: fighting to have legal protections for reproductive health and especially access to safe and legal abortion services and empowering the community, especially the young generation, to access health services and information. When they first launched the organization, they realized that they needed to gather evidence to support their advocacy for better national policy and to understand the needs and demand for sexual and reproductive health services and information.
In 2009, a new health law was passed in Indonesia, with a section on reproductive health. The law says that abortion can only be accessed by women who are rape survivors or if there is a health risk for the woman. There are of course many shortcomings of the law, but it is big progress for Indonesia. Today, YKP is working to ensure that the law is implemented in a useful way. Ninuk is currently working on implementing pre- and post-counseling support for women who need an abortion, to make sure that abortion care services are as comprehensive and woman-centered as possible under the current law.